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Rights campaigners welcome vote but say more to do

Venous Memari of the Centre for Justice
Venous Memari of the Centre for Justice

By Jonathan Bell

Advocates of the long-fought initiative to expand human rights gave mixed applause to last night’s passage of the Human Rights Amendment in the House of Assembly.

A spokesman for campaigners Two Words and a Comma told The Royal Gazette: “This is a significant day for human rights in Bermuda. We are encouraged by the debate, though this amendment is long overdue.

“It looks like Bermuda’s closely-held belief that discrimination is unacceptable will soon be enshrined more fully in our human rights law. However, much work remains and we encourage Parliamentarians to continue to improve our human rights legislation with haste.”

However the Centre for Justice’s Venous Memari was disheartened by a clause which her organisation has pointed out could allow police harassment.

“Expanding the grounds of protection under HRA is a historic occasion because Bermuda is finally closer to being a just and fair society,” Ms Memari said.

“We commend parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle for their expressions of support for this.

“It is most unfortunate that despite Government’s attempts to improve the amendment, 6C of the amendment act has managed to stay in with the problematic part that would lend itself to harassment by law enforcement officials and profiling. We urge the Senate to rectify the situation.

“We hope that the next step is to pursue age discrimination in the workplace.”

Human rights lawyer Juliana Snelling called last night “a historic, celebratory event”.

“The Bermuda voting public has spoken through their representative. I’m proud to be Bermudian — we’ve proved we’re a mature, responsible democracy that values human rights. It shows we can rise above the pettiness of irrelevant rhetoric. I also salute the proponent groups that have fought for years for this basic right.”

She added: “If this was a vote of conscience, there was only one way it could go — this way.”

Source: The Royal Gazette

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